Every once and a while, the scuffling Cleveland Indians offense awakens with a big game as they did two Friday’s ago when the battered the White Sox around in a 12-5 win at Progressive Field. Then they came crashing back to earth with five runs in the next three games. But on that night, it was a badly needed and welcomed sight. Last night in Toronto gave off that same kind of vibe.
The bats rose to the occasion with season highs in runs (15) and hits (22) — five each from David Murphy and Lonnie Chisenhall — in the blowout win inside of Rogers Center. You know what is crazy? The 15-4 final shouldn’t even have been that close.
“That’s a lot of fun, and I love seeing it,” Murphy said. “This offense is capable of a lot. There’s a lot of times where we’ll get three or four runs early in a game, and we don’t add on like we should and like we could. … Tonight was a perfect storm and just one of those nights where everything goes well.”
The Tribe jumped on starter Dustin McGowan early, but the damage could have and should have been much greater. In the second, walking machine Carlos Santana drew yet another one and then stole second (who knew!). After Asdrubal Cabrera struck out (failing to move Santana over to third), Good Guy David Murphy singled to right to put the Tribe on the board. Chisenhall’s two-out single put two on, but Mike Aviles flied out to center.
It looked as though they would be kicking down the Jays door in the second when they loaded the bases with one out for Cabrera. But Asdrubal channeled his inner-April groove. He swung at the first pitch and grounded into a 3-6-3 double play to end the threat. An inning later is where the frustration for me really kicked in.
Murphy opened the frame by doubling off of McGowan. Yan Gomes singled to right, but Murphy was held at third by the fast moving ball on the carpet. Chisenhall yet again came through with an RBI single to right. It was now 2-0 and McGowan was clearly on the ropes. Yet, manager Terry Francona called for Aviles to bunt—IN THE FOURTH INNING. Even if Aviles was struggling at the plate, it is the fourth freaking inning and the strikeout prone Michael Bourn was on deck. Why bunt?
Naturally, Handsome Mike’s bunt didn’t do the job and Gomes was erased at third. Bourn followed with a strikeout and the rally ended with a Nick Swisher groundout. Little did I know how little this would matter in the end.It was only 2-0 Tribe and it really should have been 4-0 minimum. Luckily for the Indians, they had plenty of more chances to get at the struggling McGowan.
Michael Brantley started the fifth with a double and came home on Santana’s titanic two-run blast to right, his fifth on the season. Cabrera’s single ended McGowan’s night. But again, the Tribe offense failed to capitalize. Now facing former Indian Esmil Rogers, Cabrera ran himself into an out at third on Gomes’s comebacker. Chisenhall’s third hit in five innings went for naught.
With a 4-0 lead and Corey Kluber, who has rapidly becoming the Indians best pitcher, on the mound, the Wahoos were in business. Kluber retired the first 13 Blue Jays before replacement left fielder Nyjer Morgan misplayed Adam Lind’s hit into a double. He would come around to score on a two-out Brett Lawrie double, but Kluber kept on rolling. Once again it was the strikeout that was his calling card. Corey went seven strong innings, striking out nine while giving up just two earned runs on four hits and a walk.
“I didn’t really feel like I had my legs under me from the get-go,” Kluber said. “So, I was trying to stay smooth, nice and easy. I did a good job in the first few innings and, after that long top of the fifth, I got a little tired and tried to start creating a little bit more. In the fifth and sixth, I tried to use my legs and kind of got under some balls.”
Nevertheless it was still a two-run game heading into the seventh and it was time the offense delivered the knockout blow. It would be Toronto phenom Marcus Stroman who took the punishment. Cabrera greeted the rookie with a double and came right around to score on another Murphy RBI single. The free agent signing is now hitting a whopping .483 (14-29) with runners in scoring position on the season. And he wasn’t even done! Neither were his teammates in the top of the seventh. Chisenhall’s fourth hit of the game kept the inning alive so Handsome Mike could strike the death knell. Aviles’s single to center padded the Tribe lead to 6-2.
They added two more in the eighth on RBI hits from Cabrera and Murphy. But it was about to get even better.
The ninth brought even more highlights. Back to back doubles from Aviles and Bourn and an RBI single from Jose Ramirez (the first of his career) were the first two. Murphy added to the fun with another RBI double, his fifth hit of the game. Then came the three-run bomb off of the bat of “the one that got away” from Toronto, The Yanimal to make it 15-2. Things were so bad for the maligned Jays pen that former Tribe farmhand Neil Wagner had to be yanked with two outs in the ninth and replaced by infielder Steve Tolleson.
The trio of Asdrubal, Murphy, and Chisenhall combined for 13 of the 22 hits. Every starter had at least one hit other than Swisher.
“Tonight was obviously an extreme scenarios,” said Murphy. “It was fun to be a part of. It was fun to be out there late in the game and be able to take a deep breath and say, ‘We’ve got this won.'”
It wasn’t all wine and roses though. Brantley left the game in the fifth inning because of what the Tribe called “back tightness.” The word was that Brantley was lifted for precautionary measures. Playing his fifth straight game on hard astro-turf in Tampa and now Toronto certainly didn’t help. He was replaced by Morgan, who left the game after spraining his right knee on the fluky Lind double in the fifth. Ramirez hit for Morgan and came on to play second base with Aviles moving to left. Carlos Carrasco also didn’t fare well in his one inning of mop up duty, giving up two runs on three hits in the ninth.
Brantley is said to be day-to-day, but Morgan left the clubhouse after the game with a soft cast on his right leg. No official word yet, but a DL stint could be impending. During Wednesday’s AAA game, Columbus first baseman Jesus Aguilar (this Jesus Aguilar) was pulled from the game, which means he could be on his way up.
With lefty JA Happ (1-1, 4.63 ERA) going for Toronto today, I would expect to see Aviles in left, Ramirez at second, and Ryan Raburn DH’ing. Squaring off with Happ in the series rubber match will be the Tribe’s Danny Salazar (1-3, 5.65 ERA).
(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)